My father was a problematic sort of guy: a former Marine, Merchant Marine engineer, the guy who could fix anything, and bad-tempered. So growing up, I was the navigational fix for the bad temper.
When I got old enough that physically punishing me became a dangerous sport (thanks to years of Judo), he relented and began doing what he should have done years before – talk to me.
I became the recipient of years of experience he’d accumulated at sea and in foreign ports. I was taught how to read a street scene while standing by a lamp post. Gauging the hang of a punks clothing to see if he was “carrying”? Sure. How to walk confidently down a street even when I was lost? Elementary. But most of the instruction came in the way of sayings, proverbs and phrases that he regularly repeated. But there was one that was drilled into me at a base level – ” Louis. If you can’t make it in New York City, you can’t make it anywhere.”
So, sorry to say, there reached a point when I decided that I just plain didn’t want to make it in New York City and left. You know what the first words out of his mouth were after I called from Boston were, right? ” Louis. If you can’t…”
It took him two years to realize that I needed to make it on my terms in my chosen locale. Eventually, when I settled into a settled life, he enjoyed trips to Boston to visit, but he still would preface Boston and New York City comparisons with his favorite phrase.
The City itself was undergoing some heavy-duty changes, and my father and mother moved. First to Yonkers and then further up in Westchester county. After the move there was a lengthy discussion about crime in the City and how it just wasn’t what it had been.
I’m sorry, I was raised as my father’s son, I couldn’t resist. After he went on about the conditions for I while, I broke in and snidely said, ” Well, Dad, if you can’t make it in New York City, You can’t make it anywhere.”
If my father could have reached through the telephone and throttled me, he would have. But, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity.